Believe What We Are Praying
In the Book of Acts chapter 12 there is an account of Peter being put in King Herod’s prison for being a part of the Jesus movement. “It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them.” Some he put to death while others he put in prison. This is what happened to Peter. Not only was Peter imprisoned, he was also closely guarded by four squads of four soldiers each while there. Peter was obviously some threat to the king.
Verse 5 says, “So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” There could not be a more comforting thought than to know that when you are in trouble the church could be in earnest prayer for you… constantly. This is a key verse to show how God’s people respond to tragedy in the lives of others. You may not be able to fight the government, but God, who controls all the kings of the earth, certainly can. His children, the church, can lay their desires at His feet and He can do something about it.
Peter was about to go to trial before Herod the next day and there had to be some tense moments about the upcoming day. As the night grew on he grew weary and finally fell to sleep. It had to be uncomfortable. He was bound with two chains and it appears that each one was chained to him and to a guard on each side of him. Herod did not want an escape of any kind. Sentries stood guard at the entrance of the prison and he was securely held.
All of a sudden, and angel of the Lord appeared and a strong light shone in the cell. He reached down and struck Peter on the side, woke him and told him to get up. The chains fell off his wrist and Peter was about to be a free man. Peter staggered to his feet and he had to be wondering what was really happening. The angel told him to get his clothes on and make it quick. Peter thought he was seeing things.
Remember, it was the middle of the night and he really wasn’t expecting this for sure. He thought it was a vision. Then he watched as they passed the first and second guards and nothing happened. When they got to the iron gate leading to the city it opened just for them by itself and he walked out a free man. They went down one street and all of a sudden the angel left.
I love what happens next. Peter collected his senses and recognized that what had happened was the work of God. He saw it. He experienced it. “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating.”
You have to appreciate the moment. Slip you sandals on for a minute and try and put yourself in his place. That had to be one awesome experience. You were thrown in prison, heavily guarded, chained and then awakened by an angel. That would get your blood pumping and your heart racing.
After he quit staggering from the events of the moment, he remembered those who were remembering him. He turned and headed toward Mary’s house, the mother of John where many were gathered, as stated before, praying. He stood at the door and knocked at the outer entrance. Suddenly a servant girl named Rhoda appeared to answer the door. Peter spoke and immediately she recognized his voice. She was so happy that she wheeled around and ran back inside, without even opening the door, shouting “Peter is at the door.” She had to be jumping and hopping around in her excitement.
Touch this moment. When they put Peter in prison, the church gathered and started praying for Peter. What would they pray? Would they pray for his death to be easy? Not likely. You’ve got to believe they were praying for his release. What would you pray for in that situation?
Upon hearing Rhoda’s remarks the others in the room remarked, “You are out of your mind.” Poor little Rhoda just kept on insisting that it was really him. Peter kept knocking and they kept on explaining it away. It must be his angel. Knock, knock, knock, the knocking continued. Finally they all ran to the door, opened it up and lo and behold there stood Peter. He hushed the crowd and basically said, “Man, have I got a story to tell you.” From that point on, Peter showed them, through his words, the work of God. They were amazed that God had actually answered their prayer.
Doesn’t it seem strange that the church was gathered to pray for Peter and then stand in unbelief when he arrived at the door? I wonder if they believed what they were praying? Is it possible for a church to come together to pray for something and not believe it will ever happen? Has that happened to us? Can we become so entrenched in our religion that we actually go through a motion of prayer never really believing that God will do something about it? It can and it does. James admonished us when praying not to be double-minded. Double-minded is praying for one thing and expecting something else.
Perhaps we should consider this passage when we pray for the work that goes on here in this church. Perhaps we should consider it when we pray for our children or our family and friends. Instead of being amazed when God actually answers our prayers, we should be amazed when He doesn’t.
There are no “little prayers.” Every prayer is a powerful weapon against evil. Every prayer is a powerful force with which every child of God can fight the evils of Satan and overcome his power in our lives. We must not fail to pray. But, more than that, we must never fail to believe that what we pray for will become evident in the working of God Almighty.